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The cat calls and ‘complimentary’ phrases in Spanish of “” were actually preferable to the more silent advances; the lick of the lips and teeth, the sneer and accompanying grin which left no doubt, in my mind at least, of what they were thinking. The times where I turned around to glare seemed only to prompt further shouts.I learnt to grow casually wary of old men, young men, street-cleaners and shopkeepers; all of them strangers, all seemingly unable to let you pass them by without a comment muttered under their breath.
The stooped figure of a man in his seventies was approaching slowly, walking stick in hand, and I began to smile even before we passed each other.
In India, I was respectful to the point of deference, because I knew how important the act of covering a woman’s shoulders, cleavage and knees was to the local culture. I can easily say I’m probably more self-conscious than most women.
I often feel people’s eyes on me – or rather, I continually notice where the people around me are looking – and I knew that I was often being stared at.
So I would pull awkwardly at the edges of my shorts, rearrange my vest, and start walking more quickly.
Maybe I became expectant that this behaviour would come my way, so noticed every time. I’m sure I picked up on it more often than my fellow travellers.